Barrage of election speeches given by BJP leaders are centred on ‘alleged’ blunders committed by the previous Congress governments.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempts to vilify our first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, are a far cry from the informed criticism of academics.
The barrage of election speeches made by the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are centred on ‘alleged’ blunders committed by the previous Congress governments, starting from 1947. But while invoking these so-called mistakes, Narendra Modi and his team are often economical with truth.
What this shows is ignorance at best, and a malicious effort to mislead at worst. Perhaps, it hasn’t occurred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his colleagues that their historical inaccuracies provoke more ridicule for them than disdain for the great legacies they seek to besmirch, as does their bid to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – a staunch Congressman.
It is not outrageous to suggest that such slander and inaccurate narratives are proffered as a mechanism to overcome a crucial weakness of the BJP: its complete absence in the struggle for India’s freedom. Adding to this fundamental flaw in its legacy as a pan-Indian political outfit is a visible lack of true statesmen in the history of this organisation, and the perceived paucity of intellectual merit, which have been compensated for with reactionary and divisive views.
Moreover, the frequency and desperation with which these purportedly historical arguments are pushed through seemingly sympathetic media outlets points to more than just the BJP’s discomfiture with its legacy. This strongly indicates a certain level of embarrassment at its recent administrative failures, inability to fulfil repeated promises, and general non-performance.
Since the median age of India is around 29 years, let us assume for the sake of argument that an average Indian would have been born in 1990. In the three decades since then, the Congress has been in power for 15 years. Non-Congress governments have been at the helm of affairs for almost the same amount of time, with BJP itself accounting for nearly 11 of those years. In this entire duration, no member of the Nehru-Gandhi family held the office of the Prime Minister.
Since BJP politicians appear to revel in concocting apocryphal stories and conjuring specious “only if” scenarios, it would be worth their while to examine their own party’s record. Objectively, it does not make for an encouraging reading.
Wheels of polarisation
A salient example of what many of BJP’s supporters consider a key achievement is the devilry witnessed in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 – an event that was the culmination of a highly polarising Rath Yatra that the BJP leadership planned and executed for political gains.
It is disingenuous for some of their stalwarts to have subsequently claimed that they were saddened to hear of the demolition or did not anticipate that the crowd would be incited to violence. The Liberhan Commission was unequivocal in indicting the BJP’s top leadership for their involvement in this tragedy.
The internecine violence that subsequently ensued serves as testament to the magnitude of this horrific event. The series of bomb blasts that rocked India’s premier metropolis and the savagery with which India’s secular fabric was ripped apart were direct outcomes of the Rath Yatra, an enterprise of Machiavellian planning that earned the BJP political gains, at the expense of India’s peace, prosperity and standing as a civil society of good repute.
In the decades to come, eminent academics have viewed this affair as the origin of home-grown terrorism in India, far different and more dangerous than the insurgency movements that India had overcome in the past.
Kargil and Kandahar
Similarly, it is a bit perplexing that while the BJP leadership loves to talk about 1962, it has never cared to explain the massive intelligence failure that preceded Kargil.
At a time when then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was taking a goodwill bus to Lahore, the Pakistani army was covertly occupying positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control. The valour of Indian soldiers won us victory, but at the cost of precious lives that were lost; all due to an inexplicable unpreparedness.
Besides this, the BJP’s record on either improving relations with Pakistan or tackling the problems they pose as a foe is lamentable, and is hinged on events like the supposedly-novel surgical strikes: aimed at feverish publicity but far from ground-breaking in reality.
The same year as Kargil, we witnessed televised scenes of dreaded terrorists being escorted by officials of the Government of India to Kandahar, Afghanistan. This capitulation, later described as a diplomatic failure by none other than Ajit Doval, flies in the face of a party that makes such a pretence about military bravado.
Instances such as Kandahar, the rather-muted response of India’s government after the horrific torture and mutilation of Indian soldiers by Bangladesh Rifles in 2001 and the impudence with which General Musharraf would disparage the Indian establishment, all indicate that the BJP’s aggressive bluster is akin to that of a backyard bully: tormenting minorities, threatening students, stifling civil activism but cowing down when faced with a stronger bully.
Flow of misinformation
From the riots of Gujarat in 2002 that happened under his rule, to the misadventure of demonetisation that happened at his whim, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never cared to offer as much as an apology to this nation. Yet, he has the gall to denounce Jawaharlal Nehru as the root of India’s problems.
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi would do well to remember Thomas Jefferson’s famous words, particularly because the mandate he gained in 2014 was on the basis of his fantasy of “Acche Din”.
Narrating counter-factual versions of history does not befit the stature of a Prime Minister, and makes him guilty of dishonesty. The annals of time are unsparing in their assessment. Momentous achievements and monumental tragedies cannot be transformed by a petty, ill-conceived flow of misinformation, howsoever persistent it may be.
People of my generation grew up associating the Hindu supremacist ideology with the assassination of the father of this nation. Today’s generation associates it with the Babri Masjid demolition, the Gujarat riots and their lasting repercussions. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi truly wanted to change this, he would have changed the outlook and actions of his organisation. Sadly, that chance seems to have been lost.
The author is the finance minister of Punjab.
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